Thursday 24 October 2013

Aqua-Spinning, AquAllure

A recent article written for about my latest crazy experience, Aqua-Spinning!

When I told people that I would be doing an aqua-spinning class, two things surprised them. One, the class itself (‘Aqua-spinning? Like, bikes in a pool?’), and two, that I was actually doing any type of fitness class at all. When posting up my status about it early Friday morning, I even felt the need to reassure my Facebook friends that my account hadn’t been hacked. But who could blame them, because I certainly wasn’t sure what I was up against either. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about.

On the way to Dolphin Square’s Fitness Club, I reread the aqua-spinning announcement on the gym’s website. Being a fitness novice, one word instantly jumped out at me…‘intense’, and it did make me slightly nervous. When I say I’m a fitness novice, I really do mean it. This time last year I was more than two stone heavier, and so exercise was very difficult, usually painful, and never very pleasant. I often felt self-conscious, or like I was going to make a fool out of myself, so just avoided it all together. With changes to my diet, I am now over halfway to my target weight, and feel it is time to start introducing regular exercise into my life.

Aqua-spinning is brand new, and I feel lucky to have taken part in one of London’s first ever classes. The Dolphin Square fitness club is beautiful. Clean, modern and stylish, the pool itself is a highlight. Everyone at the gym was incredibly friendly which made the experience even more enjoyable.
Launched on 15th October by the aquaAllure team, aqua-spinning has grown hugely popular in other parts of the world. ‘They’re crazy about it in Europe’, aquaAllure’s director Dorine Denjean told to me after the session, ‘and in New York too.’ French herself, Dorine and personal trainer Michelle Cohen have realised aqua-spinning’s potential, and believe it’ll have many fans in exclusive venues over here too.

When I got poolside, I saw a group of women standing by the edge of the water and assumed they were here for the class as well. As they all had a similar expression to mine, I felt it safe to approach. No one had done aqua-spinning before, though some were fans of regular spinning. Some were members of the gym, and others had come just for the one-off class. I then started chatting to a woman who had been to the Wednesday session and was eager to come back for more. This was obviously reassuring, and when I realised she was pregnant, I thought ‘pull yourself together Lydia, if she can do it, you certainly can’. We were an all-female class of ten, but a range of shapes and sizes within it. Spending most of the time up to my elbows in water though meant that all of my self-conscious feelings were instantly banished. Some of my friends were concerned – ‘What if I haven’t shaved my legs?’, ‘Will my hair get wet?’ – but honestly, these were at the very bottom of my worry list. Unshaved legs? No one’s going to them see through the water. Damp hair? Avoidable if you tie it up high enough. As the class got going, I realized that we would all be far too busy keeping co-ordinated to check out how sexy anyone else looked (probably just as well!).

After tweaking and adjusting our bikes to the correct heights, we all saddled up. Parked along the side of the pool, our instructor had his bike up on the side. He would usually have split his time between in and out of the pool, but as the class was over-subscribed, he spent most of the session dry. However, he was ready to jump in at the first sign of trouble, which luckily for us was just a wobbly seat.

The session was set to music helping to lighten the mood and also gave us a steady rhythm to follow. The idea was that we kept our feet pedalling throughout the session, and for most of that time we also did different exercises with our arms. This could be stretching to either side and in front, reaching up or scooping our hands deep through the water repeatedly. We switched constantly between sitting on the seat and riding up off of it (is there a technical term for this?!). This of course meant that you had to work much harder, but I was surprised that I didn’t get too tired. Dorine explained that one of the many benefits of working out in the water is that you only feel a fifth of your body weight, making cycling in particular much less exhausting. Apparently aqua-spinning’s benefits include weight loss, toning and cellulite reduction, and you can also burn up to 800 calories in just one session (though this may be a slight exaggeration, as burning rates depend on a person’s size and fitness level).

For about five to ten minutes in the middle of the session, the music kicked up a tempo, and our instructor encouraged us to pedal as fast as we could. That was the great thing about the session; we could all go at our own pace. My fastest pedalling would have been different to the woman next to me, but as long as we were both doing it, that didn’t matter. I also felt I could push myself to do more challenging parts because before I realised I was slowing down, we’d be on to something else.  I’m sure this will be appealing to many people, as I’ve often heard that spinning can seem boring and repetitive. In the water, you’re able to do a lot of things that you wouldn’t be able to do ‘on land’. One such example was when our instructor asked us to keep pedalling with both hands on the handlebars, but with our bodies behind the seat. This meant lifting your bum up and over the seat, being careful not to do any damage to yourself! We were all a little perplexed at first, but by using his tremendous upper body strength, he was able to demonstrate the move clearly despite being out of the water…

At the end of the session, we had an extended stretching period, using the bike as a balancing aid and support. Again the buoyancy of the water meant we could all stretch further and hold positions for longer. I absolutely loved the session, and would not only recommend it, but am looking to do more myself. You don’t need to know how to ride a bike or even how to swim, as the whole class takes place in the shallow end. I felt warm and energized for the rest of the day, and apart from one sore patch (put it this way, I haven’t sat on a bike for a VERY long time), I didn’t ache at all.

There were only a few downsides to the class. At £20 a session, it is pricey. However with discounts for multiple sessions, that will make it slightly more affordable. The other issue was that during the session, the echo of the pool made it quite difficult to hear instructions. He tried his best to solve this though, by repeating things several times, and coming down to check on us individually if we looked lost. Dorine also mentioned that future classes would be taught with the bikes positioned in a semi-circle.

If money were no object, I’d be down there every Friday. For me, aqua-spinning was a great way to ‘dip my toe’ into the world of fitness.

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